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Morse code officially went out of use February 1, 1999 for most ships in distress at sea.

The International Maritime Organization set February 1 as its target date to replace dots and dashes with a satellite system, the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System, that can pinpoint the location of a ship signaling for help.

The new system is mandatory for all international freighters over 300 gross tons, all passenger vessels and self-propelled oil drilling units. Coastal freighters, most fishing boats and pleasure craft are exempt.

However, Lloyd's List, a maritime industry newspaper published in London, estimated in December that a quarter or more of the world's ships still had not been fitted with the necessary equipment; which costs a minimum of $30,000.